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Desmond works at shortstop before rehab play

Vet takes grounders at former position before assignment begins Thursday
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

KANSAS CITY -- Rockies veteran Ian Desmond is close to being back in a familiar spot: helping a team in a playoff run. He might even get to a more familiar place: shortstop.

Desmond, who has missed four weeks with a right calf strain -- he had the same injury earlier this season -- will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Albuquerque, and will play again Friday and probably Sunday. But on Tuesday, his last and most intense workout since the injury, he took ground balls at shortstop, his position with the Nationals from 2009 to 2015.

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KANSAS CITY -- Rockies veteran Ian Desmond is close to being back in a familiar spot: helping a team in a playoff run. He might even get to a more familiar place: shortstop.

Desmond, who has missed four weeks with a right calf strain -- he had the same injury earlier this season -- will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Albuquerque, and will play again Friday and probably Sunday. But on Tuesday, his last and most intense workout since the injury, he took ground balls at shortstop, his position with the Nationals from 2009 to 2015.

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Desmond played in the outfield with the Rangers in 2016. He then signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies with designs on moving this year to first base, but has played extensively in left field because of first baseman Mark Reynolds' hot hitting. Shortstop hasn't been an option, but with Trevor Story struggling -- including a .223 average, and tied with the Brewers' Keon Broxton for the National League lead in strikeouts with 149 -- short is a positional option.

Gerardo Parra is playing solidly in left field, but could move to right to spell Carlos Gonzalez, who has overcome some struggles average-wise but isn't providing his typical power. Reynolds has gone from .284 before the All-Star break to .257 after, although he hasn't lost much off his slugging percentage, .496, from .513, and could be spelled at first base. So shortstop could be a way of working Desmond into the lineup, or he could play extensively there.

Video: PIT@COL: Desmond plates Blackmon with sharp single

Pressed about whether Desmond will see time at short, Rockies manager Bud Black was non-committal. Black said Desmond will start at first base Thursday for Albuquerque.

"The beauty of Ian is his versatility," Black said. "He feels comfortable at first. He feels comfortable in the outfield, and his natural position is shortstop. He feels comfortable there, even though he hasn't been there in a year and a half or so."

Where Desmond doesn't feel comfortable is the disabled list. Before joining the Rockies this year, his only DL trip was in 2012 for an oblique injury. But he missed the first 25 games due to a left hand fracture, nine games with his first calf injury and 24 (and counting) this time.

But with three postseason appearances the last five years, and with the Rockies currently in a National League Wild Card position but in a tight race, Desmond is eager.

"I can remember my press conference when I signed here," said Desmond, who has hit .285 in 65 games and whose 10 stolen bases are second on the team to Charlie Blackmon's 12. "This is the circumstance that we wanted, meaningful baseball coming down the stretch in late August and September, and we got it. It's up to us to go out there and play. I've got to get back and healthy, and see how it shakes out."

Worth noting

• Left-handed starter Tyler Anderson, out since June 25 following arthroscopic left knee surgery, threw a three-inning simulated game at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday. Desmond participated in that one. Black said Anderson will need another simulated game to build his pitch count.

• The Rockies have sent Rookie-level Grand Junction outfielder Pedro Gonzalez to the Rangers as the player to be named in the July 30 trade that landed catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Ian Desmond